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Three mussel infested boats intercepted at Dillon AIS station

Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 19:07:34-04

HELENA — Inspectors at the Dillon watercraft inspection station had a busy start to early season boat inspections.

Located south of Dillon on Interstate 15, the watercraft inspection station is staffed by crews of two seasonal FWP employees who check for aquatic invasive species (AIS) on boats traveling north.

Normally this time of year, watercraft inspection stations see a few snowbird boaters returning home.

The Dillon station opened on March 14, earlier than any previous year. They have already intercepted three mussel-fouled boats.

Last year, they stopped three mussel-fouled boats the entire season. About 75 percent of the boats inspected so far this season have been on boats registered in Canada.

“The amount of boat traffic we were seeing at Dillon was like summertime traffic,” said AIS area supervisor John O’Bannon. “The coronavirus news caused Canadian boaters to rush for the border and that kept us really busy for the first two weeks.”

Boat traffic has decreased over the weekend to more typical numbers.

“We can conduct the inspection with no contact between the inspector and boat owner,” said O’Bannon. “But we need their assistance to do things like take off the boat cover and open compartments that must be examined.”

If an inspection can’t be completed, the boat is locked to the trailer to prevent it from launching and an inspection is arranged for another time. If the boater is destined for another state or province, the destination authority is notified to allow for a follow-up inspection or decontamination.